Comeback tales and siblings act dominated women’s 1,500 metres and 800m races as well as men’s 1500m competition at the national athletics trials for the World Championships held at Nyayo National Stadium on Friday.
Reigning world and Olympics 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich and women’s 2013 World champion over 800 metres, Eunice Sum, made major comebacks before home fans, while World champion in men’s 1,500m Elijah Manang'oi shed tears of joy on the trackside while cheering his younger brother George Manangoi to third place at the trials.
Chepng’etich sent the strongest signal yet that she is back and ready to defend her title at the World Championships due in Doha from September 27 to October 6.
Chepng'etich gave athletics fans a glimpse of the good form that saw her stage a solo run to beat Great Britain’s Laura Muir, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba and Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands to the gold medal at the 2017 World Championships in London when she won women’s 1,500m race in 4 minutes, 03.22 seconds.
Chepngétich, who went into the trials having already qualified for the World Championships by virtue of being the defending champion, was followed by 2013 World Championships semi-finalist Winny Chebet (4:03.23), Sela Jepleting (4:05.20) and Judy Chepng’etich (4:06.99).
Chepng'etich and Chebet were named in Team Kenya that reports to Kasarani for residential training this Sunday.
And Chepng'etich, who returned to competition from maternity leave with a blistering performance at the Prefontaine Classic on June 30 where she posted a time of 3:59.04, sought to assure her fans that all was well as she heads to the World Championships in Doha.
“Faith means having strong belief in something. I have strong belief that I will do well in Doha,” the Olympic champion said.
“Every aspect of my training has gone well, and I can only hope for the best,” she added.
There were more comeback tales, with women’s 2013 World champion in women’s 800 metres race, Sum, also making a comeback by timing 1:58.99 to finish second in the two-lap race.
“I was here to qualify for the World Championships, and I have achieved just that. The rest of the things will fall in place once we hit the camp,” Sum said.
“The next battlefront is to qualify for the final in Doha. We will have to qualify from the heats, and obviously every single one of us is targeting a medal and that means our preparations are far from over.”
Jackline Wambui timed 1:58.79 to win the race, while Emily Tuwei (1:59.23) and Eglay Nalianya (2:00.32) finished third and fourth respectively. Sum will team up with Wambui in the hunt for medals in Doha.
World champion in men’s 1,500m Elijah Manangoi skipped the trials, but the athlete sprang to life and became animated at the trackside while cheering his younger brother George Manang'oi to a third place finish in the race. Both George and Elijah will represent Kenya in Doha.
George timed 3:37.00 to finish third behind winner Timothy Cheruiyot (3:34.91) and second-placed Ronald Kwemoi (3:36.61).
Elijah, George, Cheruiyot and Kwemoi will represent Kenya in Doha.
“It is my first time to qualify for the World Championships, and I did it with great help and coaching from my brother Elijah,” George, accompanied by his elder brother Elijah, said.
“I owe it to him. He has been a great source of inspiration during training,” he added.
His elder brother was elated by the results.
“I am so impressed with this result. I have been waiting for this moment for us to be in the team together, and it feels great. I am happy that our efforts in training have borne fruit,” Elijah, who predicted a 1-2-3 finish by Kenyans in the race, said.